Okay, so why not follow the pattern?
Of course, there are occasional mistakes in patterns that we need to recognize and not follow. But this is not at all what I am speaking to. As elaborated in the previous post, there are places in the pattern where we must alter the pattern to get the right fit.
Where are they? Wonderfully, they aren't that many. But they are mighty! Get this right, and your garment fits: get it wrong, and well, we know that result all too well.
- any kind of length--garment, sleeve, or waist
- shoulder width
- number of stitches to cast on for a sleeve
- number of stitches for a cardigan front (if the pattern gives a total)
But they don't! Your size was based upon your girth, and the pattern writer has no idea how tall you are! You follow their length, and you might end up looking like Mrs Doubtfire!
This rather wimpy instruction is very different from the sewing world's SHORTEN OR LENGTHEN HERE. And it is to this standard that I wish knitting would adhere. As I said in the previous post, this says 1) do something and 2) do it here!
But what about those other 3 bullets?
Adjusting for shoulder width is a relatively new concept in knitting but, oh, when your garment fits on your shoulders your garment FITS!
It's odd that in the knitting world--and, I might add, in the ready-to-wear world--garments have ever wider shoulders for every larger sizes. (You've seen this, a pattern that reads 14 [15, 16, 17 18]" across the shoulders of 5 sizes for a sleeveless or set-in-sleeve garment. And you've bought many a set-in-sleeve garment whose shoulders were cut this way!)
Why? Because this graduated shoulder width does not reflect the population! When measuring students in class, over 50% of them have 15–16" shoulders. And I've met XS's with 18" shoulders and 2X's with 14" shoulders. So what I've started doing is one size shoulder width for all. And then I've added the following instruction: WIDEN OR NARROW FOR SHOULDER WIDTH BY WORKING FEWER OR MORE DECREASES. When you knit this pattern, you'll just reduce at the armhole to a different number than the pattern--and deal with it when you bind off for the shoulders.
For example, if you decrease to 72 (instead of 76), you have 4 fewer stitches than the pattern. When the pattern's shoulders end with "Bind off 5 stitches at the beginning of the next 8 rows", you'll bind off 5 stitches twice but 4 stitches twice--because you have 2 fewer stitches on each shoulder. And this is really easy to do when there is only one set of numbers across the shoulders and neck--as happens when we don't have graduated shoulder widths for 5 sizes.
If knitting patterns are responsive to our needs, they will adhere to this standard.
In following posts I'll address the other 2 issues. And in a follow-up post I'll talk about why we think we need to follow patterns. And then I'll tell you my most common knitting mistake!